How to Save Enough Money to Finance Travel (The million dollar question)!
The thing that really irks me about travel is that people assume that I have the bank roll of a Rockefeller, just because I travel quite frequently . Sadly, the short and unequivocal answer to this assumption is no. Like not even a little bit. Like not even close. In actuality, I am kind of like the anti-rockefeller. I have over $40,000 in student loans, pay rent in one of the most expensive counties in the United States (#westchesterpride), have a monthly car payment, and on and on and on.
Come to think about it, I am actually worth more dead than alive. But don’t take out a life insurance policy on me because I’m still not worth a whole lot (I think you’d probably get more money by starting a travel fund jar than having me kick the bucket).
So then how on earth do I finance travel If I am that much in debt and have all these bills (And no, I don’t do anything illegal so you won’t find me in Pretty Woman or on an episode of Narcos)?
Well, “How to fund travel?” is a question that man has been asking himself since the dawn of time, or since the era of exploration, take your pick (Thank God I don’t have to roll up to the king of Spain and ask him to start crowdfunding travel for me). To be honest though, the answer to this question isn’t pretty. It actually isn’t even interesting. In fact, how I afford to travel the world is downright dull (Sorry to break the news to you but I swear this post is fun. Quick, look at a cat meme. Or Chris Pratt. Whatever works).
The answer isn’t fun because in actuality, generating enough money to put in a travel savings account means that my social life is rather nonexistent when I am not traveling. I mean sure, I socialize with the baby I care for, but that doesn’t really count as a social life since she doesn’t even talk yet.
But when you don’t have a high profile job and have an avalanche of bills waiting to fall down around you, saving money for travel can be hard work and frankly requires a lot of sacrifice since I haven’t found my sugar daddy du jour. So before you register yourself on sugarbabies.com (to find the sugar daddy of your dreams so you can afford travel), here are some tips for saving money that will help you start saving for vacation.
I bet you’re like, “Why is she talking about the environment, this is a travel blog?”. Well, instead of just putting those empty bottles and cans in the recycling bin, or worse, throwing them out, why not try saving them and recycling them at your local grocery store? I know its a pain to save them and schlep all these bottles to the store, but its worth it. I mean one time I made $40 by recycling all the cans from my diet soda addiction (Yup, it’s a pretty bad addiction). It may sound like a lot of work but every little bit counts. And when you’re desperate to travel like me, you’ll do just about anything to save enough money for your next trip (Ain’t no shame in my game).
2. Switch your phone carrier!
Another easy way to save money and finance your travels is to switch your phone carrier. I used to have a big name carrier that charged me almost $120 a month for cell phone service. Once I realized how much I was paying, I switched to cricket wireless. The service is great and now I only pay $45 a month for basically the same service. And I never run out of data, which is a huge plus for a social media whore like me (This can be part of your new and nifty, travel money saving plan. Okay I’ll stop. Trying to save money can blow sometimes).
***Some other affordable cell phone plans include Metro PCS ($30 a month), Cricket ($60 for unlimited data), Boost Mobile ($35 a month with auto-pay), Straight Talk ($35 a month with 2 GB data), Virgin Mobile ($50 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data with auto-pay), and T-Mobile ($70 a month for unlimited data and with auto-pay).
***If you’re traveling abroad with your phone, always turn off your cellular data so that you don’t get charged an insane roaming fee like $800 (True story! Happened to my friend in Spain). Now if you want to get internet for less while you travel, and avoid this issue altogether, you can try purchasing a worldwide data sim card for any WIFI enabled device. Plus, you can even add data bundles to your SIM cards to increase your savings. You may also want to purchase a Wifi router (pocket sized device that you insert any SIM card inside. Just switch it on and it gives you internet anywhere in the world) or a Data Roaming USB if you’re traveling with your laptop (You just pop a sim card inside, plug it into your computer, and start browsing). Yes, behold the power of modern technology! Wait, where’s my abacus?
3. Cut Out the Gym (This is how all the cool and lethargic kids earn enough money for vacation)
Let me clarify this one. I don’t mean stop exercising and taking care of yourself. You don’t even have to cut the gym out entirely. Do little things like instead of buying fitness classes a la carte, try joining a gym that has an assortment of fitness classes included in the membership.
You can also try joining a multitude of discount gyms like Crunch or Planet Fitness, since both gyms charge about $10 a month, but offer many of the same services as other, more expensive gyms.
You could also cut out the gym out entirely (Which is what I did. Lol. So sad, not really. I hate communal showers anyway. One word, foot fungus) and try running or walking. I know, I know it sounds kind of lame and not super cool like Soul cycle but just think of sitting on the beaches of Bali while everyone else is sweating it out in a local Soul cycle studio. I mean, who has the better deal now?
If you’re into bugs and wildness and rocks and mud and stuff, maybe go for a hike or ride your bike if you’re looking for a cheap form of exercise that is still moderately fun. You could also join that P-90 X cult and try to workout to some fitness DVDs at home. My mom was old school and used to work out to Jane Fonda but whatever DVD you choose, you’re getting yourself moving and saving money, so it’s a win win situation (my grandma was even older school and used to work out to Richard Simmons. LoL. Sweatin’ to the Oldies for the win).
4. Need Money for Vacation? Try Changing Your Car Insurance
I know I’m pretty lazy but I tend to just continue my car insurance coverage with the same provider year after year. I mean, come on, who wants to spend their free time getting a car insurance quote from a gecko? Eventually though, I decided to start saving to travel the world and looked into car insurance coverage under another provider.
My first thought was, “Great Scott, why didn’t I do this sooner?”. Okay, I don’t actually speak like that but you get the idea. I was shocked that I could save $20 a month just by switching car insurance providers (Cough…Progressive…Cough, Cough…No regrets). Plus they made the switching part super easy since well, they want my money. LoL. Trust me, it was really easy to do (Curse you Gecko! You made promises that you couldn’t keep). To add to my already sweet savings, I actually bundle my payments together and pay off my car insurance for a full 6 months at a time. Yeah, it breaks my heart to say good bye to so much money at one time, but its worth it to have a little somethin’ extra so that I can save money for vacation. Wanna be a full on baller? Take a defensive driving course and you can save even more (That’s right. Dollar dollar bills y’all).
***Check out insurance panda to get car insurance quotes from multiple companies. So helpful because then you can compare prices and figure out which company provides the best insurance for you.
***Also remember to purchase travel insurance for your trip because like the old adage says, “You don’t want to fall down the side of a mountain and be in debt for the rest of your life.” Wait, that’s not right is it? Lol. Some of my favorites include Travel Guard and Travelex (best insurance for coverage options), World Nomads and Seven Corners (cheap), and HTH Worldwide and IM (best travel medical insurance).
5. Cut out one splurge item a week
Love eating out? Yeah, me too. To me cooking is an epic pain in the ass. And why cook something when I can pay someone else to do it better? Well, as sad as it makes me to say this, one of the many good ways to save money is to cut back on eating out. Now here me out and hold onto your tomatoes. I know its tough eating at home but this is for travel people! Sacrifices need to be made, so choose wisely!
But trust me, you don’t have to go from eating caviar at the Ritz to hoovering Lunchable pizzas over your sink, just to save a few dollars. Start by eating at home just one more night a week, and then go from there. Oh wait, you don’t eat anything except air (popular trend nowadays)? That’s cool. I mean air is gluten, carb, sugar,
and dairy free so obviously it is good for you. LOl. Maybe you like going to the salon instead? Then try to buy a hair dye kit, a la Garnier Fructis, and get your hair coloring swerve on until it needs to be cut. Or maybe you enjoy getting your eyebrows waxed (I mean, who doesn’t love someone smearing liquid MAGMA all over their face, just to rip it right off? So fun it hurts)? Then try tweezing at home yourself. Just remember that whatever you love doing, try finding a more cost effective way of doing it rather than eliminating it altogether because let’s face it, sitting around, looking like Sasquatch (because you’re so hairy), and doing nothing is nobodies idea of a good time.
***To help you keep track of your expenses while traveling, try the Expensify App. You can actually use this program to create an expense report that you just continually add every receipt to. If you want a challenge, you can totally add your receipts manually but why? Just use your phone’s camera to scan the receipt and have the app fill in the rest. An easy way to stay on budget while traveling.
6. Use an ATM Budget
One item on my savings plan for travel is an ATM budget. Basically what this means is that when I have a savings goal in mind, and a tight budget, I try to set a spending limit for each week. After I do this, I only take that amount of money out of the ATM and use that cash to pay for all of my weekly expenses, no matter what (So no being like, oh oops, I need to go back to the ATM for a new dress. I know what you’re thinking). This way, I can see exactly what I am spending and how much I have left, which is good and bad at times. Sometimes I wanna cry when I see how much money I spend on protein bars. So gross. But this is probably the best way to save for a vacation because it makes it easy to stick to my budget.
This method is also helpful if you have a big spending week but you still want to your budget. You know, like when you’re a bridesmaid and have to buy a heinous dress that you will never wear again for like $300? Yeah, that kind of thing. Anyway, so if you have to buy that dress and spend a whopping $300 more than you wanted to that’s totally okay. Just deduct that $300 from the upcoming weekly (or weeks plural) budget to continue meeting your savings goals. Easy peasy right? Yeah, I know its not that easy to save. I mean, I hate giving up my Starbucks but I just keep thinking and dreaming about plane tickets.
***Once you reach your final destination and need to exchange your money, try an ATM from your bank or in your bank’s network. These institutions will be able to offer you cash withdrawals for either low (1% to 3%) or no fees. Just use your institution’s app to find an ATM near you. You can also use the XE Currency App to get live exchange rates for “every world currency and precious metals.” It can also store the most recent exchange rates so that you can access this information offline.
***Stay away from ATMs at the airport and in tourist areas since these places typically charge very high currency conversion fees. Also try and make one large withdrawal from an ATM as opposed to many small withdrawals so that you encounter fewer fees.
7. Don’t throw that crappy backpack away, sell it (But seriously, that thing looks like a science experiment. You might want to toss it).
In this modern age of technology, yard sales are so 80s. Now, all the cool kids just upload pictures of their old junk onto sites like Tradesy, E-bay, and Craigslist, and let the magic happen. Talk about a great way to start vacation saving now (insert cheesy infomercial here). Plus, you can sell practically anything you want like clothes, bags, furniture, electronics, your first born, etc. (Okay joking about the last one and no, you can’t give away your parents either.)
But this isn’t really that shocking in this ultra modern era (Think Jetsons status modern, except where’e my damn flying car?) of the hipster because we all know there is an app for that somewhere. And thank God because you no longer have to waste a perfectly good Saturday, chasing people down and forcing them to buy your “gently used items” (I mean, I totally get if you want to do this and get a little cardio in). But honestly, it doesn’t really matter how you do it, as long as you try and make some money off the things that you would otherwise just throw away (PS this site cannot guarantee that people will pay you for your old stuff so you may wanna leave certain things at home. You know, like that Jackson Pollock-eIt’ssq art your kid did in pre-school? Yeah, sorry but no one else wants that. It’s only cute because it’s your kid).
8. Get a Part-Time Job (Tips for saving money for a trip #5376)
I know this one sucks but no one said saving money for a vacation was gonna be easy. Plus, I bet you’re thinking, “Um, I have three kids, a dog, a husband that qualifies as a fourth child, a house that always needs repairs, and a full-time job. When the hell am I gonna work a part-time job?” I get it. We are all super busy. But part-time can mean super part-time. Like maybe on a slow weekend or on a day off you can try marketing some of those badass skills that you know you have (Yup, you are that awesome). Trust me, you can start and own that side hustle, to get money to travel, by dog walking, Uber driving, or house painting because we all have an extra set of skills that can be used to earn more cash. Worse case scenario? Find a minion and make them do it for you (Kidding, but do you have one I can borrow?). But whatever it is, try doing a side job that has nothing to do with your full-time job. This way you won’t feel like you’re schlepping through a 6 or 7 day work week. Trust me, I’ve done that and it totally sucks, especially when you’re an old hag like me and can’t function on 4 hours of sleep a night (Bring forth the coffee. And picture something epic like the Lord of the Rings while I’m saying this).
9. Drive less and walk more
Look, we gotta get money to travel. So while I love my car, gas is still insanely expensive. No joke, I just filled my tank up and it cost me over $35 and that’s for a Subaru sedan. We’re not even talking a hummer here people. So, why not be economically and environmentally responsible and try walking or (cringe) public transportation.
Sorry but public transportation where I live is heinous. The buses are always late, if they show up at all. But I digress. Basically what I mean is, try and spend less money on gas. Plus if you walk, you can count as exercise and you won’t have to worry about your clothes getting tighter (Yes, this is every woman and girls worst nightmare. I mean, “Um, the dryer shrunk my clothes. Pass me another ice cream bar will ya?”).
This principle also applies once you’re traveling as well. Try, as hard as it is, to skip the taxis and either walk or use public transportation. This way, you won’t dissolve into a heap of sobs when you get your credit card bill AFTER your vacation.
Now I know navigating public transportation abroad can be tricky so check out the Citymapper App. It is one of the best tools out there to help you find and utilize public transportation. How? It basically connects you with ride-sharing services and offers you the fastest way to arrive at your destination. But the absolute BEST PART of all is that you can check out subway and train times offline for a number of cities (So need to worry about roaming data fees slowly eating away at your budget). You can even subscribe to specific train lines or bus lines, and get alerts when you need to get off (Perfect for someone like me who is always getting lost. Its like Where’s Waldo only not fun).
10. Buy in Bulk
So I think that this is an American thing because I don’t know too many other places in the world where you can go to the grocery store and buy gallon jugs of mayonnaise (I mean not all of us have 19 kids and counting).
But alas, welcome to the good old United States. Here we sell large quantities of household items at reduced prices. So the moral of the story? Hop on the ginormous portions bandwagon and buy an insane amount of things like toilet paper at a greatly reduced price.
Where can you find such havens of consumer overabundance so you can make that travel money? Places like BJ’s, Sam’s Club, and Costco all sell household items at discounted, whole sale prices. However, these places do charge an annual membership fee of $45 a year at Sam’s Club, $50 a year at BJ’s, and $55 a year at Costco (they all also give you the option of paying more up front for your membership in exchange for rebates or discounts on the goods you buy).
But I am SUPER cheap and refuse to pay to shop at a store, no matter how discounted their goods are. That’s why I usually just do all my bulk shopping in Amazon (I have prime and get free 2 day shipping and stream amazon movies for about $100 a year) . So much easier for me to order online than actually have to deal with real people (the horror). Just be careful on Amazon though and compare online prices with in-store prices because sometimes Amazon is much more expensive.
11. Bring Your Own (Brown Bag it like a Boss)
Whether its coffee or lunch or a snack, always bring your own since eating out always tends to be WAY more expensive than preparing it for yourself (Even though sandwiches taste so much better when other people make them). So instead of going to Starbucks for a $4 coffee, try making your coffee at home and bringing it to work in a super cool travel mug (I have a super cool one that makes foregoing Starbucks hurt a little less).
And if you’re really up for a challenge, you can always try making your own lunch instead of buying it. I know, I know. When you hate your job, sometimes the only bright spot in the day is going out for lunch but if you save enough money, then your bright spot will become even brighter with an awesome vacation. So while eating that peanut butter and jelly sandwich may suck now, just think of laying on the beach in Fiji in a few months (What am I talking about? I actually like PB and J).
***Keep this principle in mind when you’re traveling. That’s why I always bring protein bars with me when I travel. I also try and go out for breakfast or lunch, as opposed to dinner, since these meals tend to be cheaper.
***Looking for a cheap place to stay? Instead of booking at a hotel or hostel (learn more about the Hostel Downside), try booking a room through AirBnB or Hotel Tonight (AMAZING app if something falls through at the last minute and you have no where to stay. They give you last minute deals on unfilled rooms at their partner hotels. Plus, you get 24/7 customer support if something goes wrong).
12. Keep the Coupons (That’s right, back away from the garbage can)
Not gonna lie, I am terrible at this. I don’t have the time and just can’t be bothered to save coupons so I always throw them out (I am like the anti-hoarder. Why save it when you can throw it away?). It’s so bad that my friends actually yell at me because you really can save a lot with all those CVS coupons (those receipts are almost as long as War and Peace) But half of the stuff on there I don’t even really need. Like Rogaine for men. Do I really need to save $1 on that? Yeah, exactly my point.
So just remember that coupons are great but only if you’re buying items you would normally buy (Like don’t go out and get a salt water fish tank just because its on sale. Kind of a silly purchase if you have no fish). So proceed with caution, use coupons on your everyday purchases, and all should be right with the world.
13. Meet Your New Best Friend, E-bates
Another great resource when you’re saving up for travel is E-bates (oh how I love thee, let me count the ways). The only thing I don’t love are those silly commercials that tell you that you’re making money from shopping. No way are you making money from shopping. I mean really? On what planet is spending $70 to get back 7 cents making money? Yeah, it’s not. You’re just earning a small rebate on your purchase, which is a huge difference.
But for this saving strategy to work, like was stated above, only use it for purchases that you would normally make. So for me, if I need to buy some new clothes from Under Armor, I’ll shop here instead of on the store site so that I can earn back a small percentage of what I spend (rebates are usually between 2% and 11% of the total purchase).
Now just as an FYI, this site is free to register for and contains an insane number of brands that you’ll actually know and want to buy stuff from. But when you purchase an item, you won’t receive the discount at the time of your purchase. Instead, you’ll receive a check in the mail that reflects the total discounts you’ve earned from Ebates over the last three months.
Now as you continue to figure out how to save money for travel, one of my favorite saving money for travel tips is to use some travel credit cards. Basically, use these bad boys and E-bates for all your shopping needs, and you can earn points that are redeemable for airline tickets (as well as that rebate on top of your purchase. CHA-CHING). Plus, a lot of the best travel credit cards actually offer a special, introductory signing bonus for new customers. What does this mean in English? Basically if you sign up and spend a specified amount on the credit card in the first three months, you’ll generally get about a $500 credit that can be used towards the purchase of your next airline ticket or anything you want really. The specifics just depend on the card you sign up for.
***My favorite travel credit cards include Capital One Venture Rewards Card (One-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening, equal to $400 in travel), Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (Earn 50,000 bonus points, or $625 to spend on travel, as a first time bonus if you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months (After the first year, you pay an annual fee of $95 to continue using the card), and the Barclay Card Arrival Plus (Earn 50,000 bonus miles, or $500 to spend on travel, after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months).
***There are other great travel rewards credit cards out there, I just haven’t used them. Also note that for many of these cards, you need great credit to be approved. Now if you do get one of these credit cards, this money saving strategy only works if you pay off your card balance at the end of each month (accruing interest on your purchases will negate the benefit of the travel credit).
14. Say Goodbye to Whole Foods and Hello to Trader Joe’s
This tip is one of my quick ways to save money. Now I know that saving money is about as much fun as pulling teeth but it’s a necessary evil. And what better way to continue the money saving awesomeness than to save money on groceries (I know, such a super sexy topic) by foregoing Whole Foods and that kale smoothie that you just have to have (Talk about a crime against humanity. I mean, I’m all about Kale but not in liquid form).
Okay, but on a more serious note, I get it. We love our bodies and want to do what’s best for them. Plus, I mean that vegan carrot cake at Whole Foods is hella awesome and don’t even get me started on their Indian food (yum to infinity). So yes, it all tastes amazing, until you get to the check out counter and realize that you just spent $300 on a can of soup and a loaf of bread. That’s why one of my smart ways to save money is to shop at less posh grocery stores like Stop and Shop or Trader Joe’s. Sure, they may not have those vegan empanadas that you love, but they still have organic! Have faith and just remember that you’re doing this for a purpose.
***To save on food while you travel, say yes to street food and no to restaurants, at least part of the time.
15. Trade in those High Heels for some Bunny Slippers
Okay, first confession, I never wear high heels. I always rock the bunny slippers look because it’s so comfy. Gasp, I think I might even have a pair of crocs somewhere for the ultimate in foot comfort experience. But for reals now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a social life. It just means that you need to think of smarter, and cheaper, ways to meet up with your friends.
So instead of heading out to that fancy restaurant that all the cool kids are dining at, try cooking with friends at home and binge-watching the latest and greatest Netflix series (Can’t cook? Order a pizza). You could even go out for coffee or breakfast and stay in for dinner since this meal is generally the most expensive meal of the day. So no need to become a hermit like me. Just be a little smarter about where you spend your money and you should be able to head out on that dream vacation in no time.
You made it! How does it feel? Do you feel smarter and wiser now that you read about all these epic and quick ways to save money? Okay, these tips may not be THAT epic but I hope you learned something and had a laugh along the way. Just remember that whatever you do, never give up on your dreams because they are possible (Except that dream about me being an Olympic gymnast. That dream has long passed).
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